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The Green Life: Book Roundup Wednesday: Radical Environmentalism

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December 22, 2010

Book Roundup Wednesday: Radical Environmentalism

Books about environmentalism Each Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. Today, we're looking at books about trail-blazing eco-defenders and "radical" green ideas.

Tree Spiker: From Earth First! to Lowbagging: My Struggles in Radical Environmental Action (by Mike Roselle, $19, St. Martin's Press, 2009) If you thought environmental activism is all touchy-feely, read this VH1 Behind the Music of the environmental movement, complete with sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. Roselle's book, a rewarding, fast-paced read, chronicles his career in conservation from his days as a young boozer in Wyoming to his maturation into one of the leading environmentalists of our time. Along the way, he gives credit to all sides, finding common ground between loggers and tree-spikers. 

Operation Bite Back: Rod Coronado's War to Save American Wilderness (by Dean Kuipers, $12, Bloomsbury USA, 2010) In a similar, albeit more controversial, vein as Tree Spiker, this book follows the radical career of Earth Liberation Front's Rod Coronado. Kuipers's book pulls no punches in its examination of eco-terrorism and eco-sabotage, but its fascinating perspective on Coronado, including his Native-American upbringing, offers an intriguing lens through which to view eco-anarchism and the subjectivity of extremism that's sure to spur debate.

Rachel Carson: A Biography (by Arlene R. Quaratiello, $14, Prometheus Books, 2010) It's easy to forget that Rachel Carson was once considered radical. This new biography of one of environmentalism's greatest figures is fully engaging, chronicling her career through its culmination in one of the movement's seminal works, Silent Spring. Quaratiello also tells the continuing saga of pesticides, and the controversies that remain around Carson's ideas.

Ecomysticism: The Profound Experience of Nature as Spiritual Guide (by Carl von Essen, $13, Bear & Company, 2010) Mike Roselle, like many environmentalists who have been labelled "extreme", often refers to his environmental beliefs as religious or spiritual, not scientific. With this in mind, Ecomysticism is a very intriguing read. Von Essen explores the cure for what he considers one of the greatest ailments of the day, what he calls "nature deficit disorder," the cure being experiencing nature in a spiritual way. Drawing on the likes of Emerson, Thoreau, and Ansel Adams, this book challenges the notion that being an environmental druid is such a radical thing.

Don't Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style (by Randy Olson, $14, Island Press, 2009) This slice of radical is aimed at scientists rather than developers or polluters. With today's popular backlash against scientists, elitists, and intellectuals, here's a book that tries to explain the gap between science and genuine empathy for its implications. What does Olson, a scientist himself, think? Scientists don't make people care enough. This excellent and funny book is at times a scathing critique of the modern scientific community, and at others a compelling guide to connecting scientific numbers with real people.

--Ronny Smith

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